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Cali Owings, Published July 21 2013

It's My Job: Farm fresh idea fills need

FARGO – Working his “large gardens” is a full-time job for Daniel Rugroden, who sells his produce three days a week at the New Festival Market at Dike East. On top of that, he’s the president and manager of the farmers market and its eclectic group of local vendors.

The New Festival Market is relatively new to the Fargo-Moorhead area. It started in 2010 and features a variety of vendors from organic farms to commercial producers.

Rugroden, who’s worked in agriculture for several years, was elected president last year. In addition to selling his own products (a variety of vegetables, fruits, herbs and other plants), he takes care of organizing the market.

Q. What made you decide to start up this market?

We felt there was a need throughout the Fargo-Moorhead area to have access to locally grown produce. We wanted to fulfill that need by having a group of diverse producers have access to the consumers of the area.

You’re here three days a week, but what is the rest of your week like as you prepare for the market?

For example, this week I’m here today from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m. But Tuesday and Thursday I was out working with my plants, outside. It was 90 degrees and I’m toiling and sweating away outside.

I’m either here three days a week or I’m getting ready to come here and getting the product ready.

What’s your favorite part of working at the market?

It’s not the heat. It’s not the humidity. And it’s not the wind … I think it’s talking to people. Networking with the different vendors and talking with people that come down here. For example. earlier today there was a couple I talked to for probably half an hour – that was a lot of fun.

How many additional responsibilities do you have in your role as president of the market?

Too much. More than I want. [laughter] I’d rather delegate.

I help write the bylaws, I help arrange the banking, making sure we try to do some advertising.

A lot of people don’t know that we are here, so our main challenge is to let the Fargo-Moorhead area know we’re down here. A lot of people say they didn’t know we were here until they drove by, saw the tents and wondered what’s going on, so that’s a big challenge.

So, out of all the jobs you’ve had, is this one pretty laidback?

This one is actually probably the most stressful because you’re working with so many variables you don’t have control over. You can’t control the weather.

When I taught farm management, I always told my farmers: “Farmers do not need to go to casinos. Farmers gamble every day with the weather.”

Why is it important for people to support local farmers and producers?

There’s a number of reasons. No. 1: The money stays local. So, when you buy local, the money stays local. It recycles in the local market. No. 2: It’s fresher. The produce you buy outside of a farmers market may not be fresh. My produce was just picked today, and so that’s another benefit.

Another benefit is that you buy directly from the grower. If you’ve got questions about why I’m doing something with my beets, I can tell you as the grower.

Do you have a favorite vegetable or fruit?

My favorite fruit/vegetable is guava, which we can’t grow here. It’s a tropical plant that I became fond of in Latin America.

My favorite vegetable – that’s a tough question. Probably squash … I’ve got six kinds of squash I grow.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Cali Owings at (701) 241-5599